Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Spirit of the Games

The sport of CrossFit is growing at an amazing rate. Boxes cropping up in local areas and attracting more & more members.  This is an exciting time in the world of CrossFit and I love seeing it go from strength to strength, whilst never losing that spirit of community and connection to its raw beginnings.  It’s very cool to be a part of it.
One of the appealing things about CrossFit is its universal scalability. Meaning every workout or movement can be adapted to not only suit your physical abilities & fitness but still challenge you and help you develop the skills to gradually require less scaling options. Anyone can participate in CrossFit and walk away feeling like they’ve worked hard and achieved something from every session.
CrossFit encompasses the full range of athletes, from the elite names of Froning, Spealler, Khalipa, Mackay, Thorisdottir, Foucher, Smith etc right down to the 87 year old grandmother who can deadlift her bodyweight.  It caters for people like me, who in their entire life have never been athletic or fit or strong, let alone an athlete, but each & every one of us can walk into that box & come out feeling pretty much the same way. Sure I may take 10 minutes longer with lighter weights and modified pull ups to finish Fran than it takes Rich Froning, but I guarantee you we’ll both be lying on the floor shattered at the end. You won’t ever find that in any other sport.
The other unique aspect to CrossFit is the fact it is a sport, you can compete in CrossFit events all over the world. Obviously the pinnacle is the CrossFit Games which the best of the best pit themselves against each other, however to have gotten to that point they have competed against the 75,000+ competitors from all over the world, all walks of life to get there through the Opens. Anyone on the planet can enter the Opens, so conceivably I could do enough to qualify for a regional event and then make it all the way to the CrossFit Games. 
Now while you pick yourself up off the floor from mirth at that thought, I know that yes for me it’s not technically possible. However the example was to prove how accessible CrossFit is.  What other sport gives you that opportunity?  I mean I’m not going to have a chance of making the Australian Swim Team for the Olympics after competing in just 5 local swims, then a regional event.  It just doesn’t happen.
However for people like me, and also the elite in the community we have our chance to compete. On any given weekend there will be a box somewhere hosting a games day. The day will consist of a number of WOD’s and maybe a team event as well.  There may be categories for beginner, intermediate or advanced/open athletes.  You self select your entry point based on your skills & experience. Many times the host box will post a list of suggested minimum movements so you know where you are best entered. It’s not an exact science but it works. Even then you still have the option to scale the weight or movement, doing that just simply means you’re probably not going to podium, but you can still participate.
For people like me who are strictly beginners, and to be honest probably will be for a while yet, these box level games days are the opportunity we’ve waited our whole life for. To be considered an athlete, to compete equally. I love getting my gear ready, turning up on the day and having a number inked on my arm or leg, collecting the athlete t-shirt, seeing what heat I am in. All that stuff that so many people who have done events their whole life take for granted. Yes it might sound dorky of me to say the above, but you know what, I’m cool with that. For me being able to do the games days I have this year has been incredible. I love it. The atmosphere, the nerves, the excitement and the sense of achievement for completing it. Yes I’m not fast and have never threatened the winners. But I’m ok with that, for me the win has been in participating.  Being one of the competitors.  Having my box mates cheering for me and the high fives when the job is done, then me doing the same for them.  I’ve done 5 events this year and one strongwoman, and to be honest at the start of the year I didn’t expect I would have done 1.  I can’t wait for next season to start because I know I will be a better athlete by then.
Games days are growing in popularity. Entries fill so fast and there are more and more athletes wanting to compete. Organisers try to make the day as worthwhile as possible with new and challenging workouts. It’s now getting to the point where it is hard to fit everything in and events for all divisions.
I went to the South West Sydney event on the weekend, this time not as a competitor but as a support crew for the guys in my box who were competing. There was a team event and also an individual event.  The individual event was for advanced/open level athletes and the team event was intermediate type level. It was an awesome day with 3 WOD's and well run. They held it at an athletics track and apparently there were over 650 athletes in total. Massive.  Whilst I missed the buzz of competing, when I saw the WOD’s I knew there was no way I could have been a solid contributor to my team in the team event. Some of the components were a little beyond me for now. There wasn’t a beginner category at this event.
With the demand for games day’s so high I can’t help but wonder if many more boxes will consider having to stage events of this size and magnitude. And if that’s the case does it mean that eventually there will be less and less events for us beginners to enter as individuals.  Personally I would find that a bit sad, because it’s that aspect of CrossFit that is truly special in that it’s inclusive and anyone can come play, that I am drawn too. Being able to compete has done so much for my self esteem and confidence this year; it’s also helped my skills develop as I have found areas to focus my improvement around. 
I fear if the events become too big we’ll lose the beginner type level and we’ll go back to how we’ve been in the rest of our lives and watching the ‘good’ people go have all the fun.  I know the way to ensure I can continue to compete is to improve my skills so I can be intermediate. But I am realistic and there is a long way to go before I meet those criteria across the board consistently. 
Chris Spealler said this recently, in reference to the CrossFit Games;
“CrossFit is not about the Games. That’s just 1% of Crossfitters. CF is about community and about taking the overweight neighbour, grandpa and a college kid and making them better athletes and boost their self esteem in the process. It’s about pouring your heart out on the floor every workout. Never forget that. It’s not just competitions. It’s a family.”
This quote for me sums up very much what CrossFit embodies. I look forward to being a part of this growing family for the rest of my life. I also look forward to being able to fully participate in all aspects of the sport for a long time to come.
I know our sport is growing and with growth comes change, but I hope in the change that there is still a place for us beginners, that we can still have that opportunity to stand alongside our peers, grab a number and wait nervously for the 3.....2.....1.....GO as we get to live out a small part of our missed dreams.

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